In entertaining industry, scientists are often portrayed as eccentric, awkward, or evil characters, for instance, Frankenstein, Dr. Sheldon Cooper in “the Big Bang Theory,” and Walter White from “Breaking Bad.”
In reality, the situation is not much brighter. Scientists’ work in health care, food industry, and academia was sometimes attacked by hostile skepticism. Here I share with you three pieces of fake science news that we can debunk together.
The first news: Childhood vaccines will lead to autism in children due to the mercury-containing compound—thimerosal.
The link between autism and childhood vaccine was almost single-handedly brought up by a British doctor named Andrew Wakefield. He did a study on 12 children and published his result in a high-profile journal Lancet. However, years later, his research was confirmed fraudulent not because he simply made an honest mistake, but he misinterpreted some of the data and even altered some of his patients’ medical records. To be more specific, five out of the twelve children he “selected” had had developmental problems before they received vaccines. Later, his publication on Lancet was retracted, and his medical license was revoked. Even so, the mercury-containing compound was prohibited in all childhood vaccines since 1999, just to be cautious.
The second news: Some of our food, like certain brands of cheerios, oatmeals, and crackers, contains an alarming level of glyphosate, a carcinogenic compound found in weed killer.
Professor Kevin Folta at the University of Florida has a podcast called Talking Biotech and he contributed a whole episode to tackle this issue. The take-home message is that a group of so-called scientists who claimed the shocking finding used a commercially-available kit to measure glyphosate in food. However, according to the manufacturer’s instruction, the kit is only recommended to detect glyphosate in water, not in food! And even if their results were correct, the level of glyphosate is more than a million times lower than the alarming level. Another myth busted.
The third news: Climate change is a hoax.
I am afraid you have heard about it in the news so many times recently. The people who are skeptical about it would say, dah, during the 400,000 years of the Earth history, during the seven cycles of glacial formation and retreat, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere went up and down, up and down so many times. Yes, they are right over there. However, don’t forget the last little bit of the graph. Since the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 level spiked but never went back down as it supposed to ().
Figure from NASA website. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)
Now you can see there are so many bad influencers out there build walls between scientists and the general public. YOU are the taxpayers who fund the scientific research, and YOU are the ultimate beneficiary of those scientific discoveries when they are turned into therapeutic drugs or other innovations. You deserve to go to the authorities, visit the official website, and ask any scientist who has social responsibilities to debunk the fake science news. Of course, you have the right to choose what to believe, but don’t say scientists didn’t warn you : )